BBC News ignores a ‘highly unusual’ Middle East story

At the beginning of June, the BBC’s Middle East editor put considerable effort into reporting on a three-hour long meeting in Paris which – despite the fact that neither Israel nor Palestinian representatives were present – was described as “Middle East peace talks”.No news

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Earlier this month, the BBC News website reported on a visit to Israel by the Egyptian foreign minister which was intended to kick-start an alternative track for direct negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

With the topic of the ‘Middle East peace process’ being one which – in one form or another – is rarely off the BBC’s agenda, it was rather surprising to see that a story billed by the local press as “highly unusual” received no coverage from the corporation whatsoever.

“Retired Saudi General Anwar Eshki visited Israel this week and met with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai. 

Eshki, who headed a delegation of Saudi academics and business people, also met with a group of Knesset members to encourage dialogue in Israel on the Arab Peace Initiative .[…]

While this wasn’t an official visit, it was a highly unusual one, as Eshki couldn’t have traveled to Israel without approval from the Saudi government. […]

The former general and the delegates met with opposition Knesset members on Friday. The meeting was organized by Meretz MK Esawi Freige, and was attended by MK Michal Rozin of the same party and Zionist Union MKs Ksenia Svetlova and Omer Bar-Lev. Freige told Haaretz that Eshki and the delegates also met with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid on Tuesday. He said that Lapid wanted two members of his party, MKs Ofer Shelah and Jacob Perry, to attend Friday’s meeting, but it didn’t work out due to scheduling conflicts.

Freige, Svetlova and Rozin said in conversations with Haaretz that Eshki and the delegates sought to meet with Israeli lawmakers in order to encourage dialogue in Israel about the Arab Peace Initiative. They added that during Friday’s meeting, the MKs proposed that Eshki invite Israeli lawmakers who support the initiative to a meeting in Saudi Arabia. “The Saudis want to open up to Israel,” Freige said. “This is a strategic step for them. They said they want to continue what former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat started. They want to get closer to Israel. This is clearly evident.” “

That is not a story which one would have thought could be ignored by a self-described “serious student of the Middle East” representing an organisation which pledges to keep its audiences “in touch with what is going on in the world”. 

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